- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2003

Pro-lifers are winning the battle against abortion. Thirty years after the Supreme Court forced abortion-on-demand on the states, substantial progress has been made in educating the public on the moral unacceptability of that position. Changing a culture has taken time, but the partial-birth abortion ban signed last month by President Bush is the latest proof that years of dedication are paying off.

Evidence of change in the positive direction can be found in liberal quarters that generally fall into the pro-abortion camp. In a Dec. 9 article in Slate, for example, Paul Freedman wrote that “since the start of the partial-birth abortion debate, Americans have grown more likely to see themselves as pro-life, less likely to consider themselves pro-choice, and less likely to support abortion unconditionally.” In 1992, according to Gallup polls, 34 percent of Americans thought that abortion should be “legal under any circumstances.” In 1996, the number dropped back to 25 percent and fell to 23 percent in May of this year. The change in public opinion coincided with the public advocacy to ban partial-birth abortion.

The campaign to ban this particular procedure raged for eight years. During that time, horrific images of the process of abortion were broadcast, and millions were shocked by the inherent violence. As a practical matter, exposure to the reality of abortion brought the decency out of people who until the campaign had been able to support abortion without contemplating the real-life consequences. The visual images made this acquiescence impossible, as did the growth of ultra-sounds showing babies in the womb at an earlier stage than before. Pro-abortion strategists have lost the argument over whether a life is in fact a life before birth.

The question is now where the pro-life movement should go from here to keep the momentum rolling. The partial-birth campaign proved that Americans can be convinced on abortion restrictions when the issues are put out for debate and people are educated about the details in the process.

Just at this moment, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), one of the organizations most responsible for the partial-birth victory, has taken its eye off the ball. This year, the group lobbied heavily in support of the prescription-drug subsidy for seniors and against campaign-finance restrictions. (We took the same position on both bills on their merits.) They have not, however, taken a position on whether the morning-after pill should be sold over the counter, a measure the Food and Drug Administration currently is considering.

All the NRLC’s work to oppose the campaign-finance legislation was fully justified because the law restricts the committee’s ability to fulfill its primary mission of educating the public on pro-life issues. However, the effort on behalf of the prescription-drug bill was clearly motivated by the NRLC’s transactional relationship with the Bush administration. As we enter 2004, we hope National Right to Life returns all its formidable resources to educating the public about abortion, including the pending matter of the morning-after pill. That is the best way to build upon the success of the partial-birth abortion ban.

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